After running Japan close last weekend in a
29-17 loss in Tokyo, Hong Kong coach Leigh Jones has stuck with a
largely settled squad for this Saturday’s Asia Rugby Championship
(ARC) re-match at Hong Kong Football Club.
Hong Kong held its own against Japan and even
rattled the hosts, (11th in the world in the latest World Rugby
rankings), at times after achieving parity up front for the first
time in recent memory.
The starting forward pack played well in Japan
and Jones has rewarded their effort by retaining his starting
tight five for the ARC home opener. Ben Roberts will again lead
the squad from hooker as captain, alongside props Ben Higgins and
Dylan Rogers, who turned in a sterling performance on his Hong
Kong debut last weekend.
Originally from South Africa, Rogers played for
Western Province, the Griqas and Connaught before arriving in Hong
Kong on New Year’s Eve three years ago and joined the HKRU’s Elite
Rugby Programme (ERP) in April.
“I was really pleased to make my debut. I think
in terms of Asian rugby there is no better place to do that than
in Japan,” said Rogers. “I’ve been full-time for the last couple
of months and one of the benefits of the ERP is that we’re
together every day as a squad. It’s been really good getting to
know the rest of the players a bit better.”
While getting to know his non-club team-mates
has been an early objective, Rogers is familiar with some of his
teammates in the squad, including fly-half Matt Rosslee.
“I went to the University of Cape Town with
Matt. He and I played more than 50 matches together at uni. It’s
the first time we’ve played on the same team since 2009, so it was
nice to be able to get my first cap with him on the pitch eight
A quantity surveyor by trade, Rogers has mapped
out Hong Kong’s chances against Japan on Saturday.
“I think we played well in Tokyo overall. We
rose to the occasion certainly, but there were moments where we
let ourselves down. We dropped our intensity and didn’t follow our
processes at times and that cost us. I’m proud of the work we did in the forwards
and how we were able to set a good platform. We have been working
hard with Leigh and the ERP coaches over the past few weeks on
that, but there’s more to the game than just scrummaging. We know Japan will be hurting a bit after last
week and we have already heard that they have been focusing a lot
on the scrum in their training, so we’re expecting a much tougher
challenge. Eliminating those individual errors that held us back
last week will be a key to our chances,” he said.
With a collective goal in mind, Rogers is
confident that the team can further up their performance.
“I’m quietly optimistic. We know there’s an
opportunity for us and that we’re in one of the better positions
we’ve been in for a long time, but it will take a full 80 minutes
and a lot of individual effort. We have to raise our game another
20% now and we realise that,” added Rogers.
James Cunningham and Adrian Griffiths have also
been retained as the starting second row, keeping Hong Kong’s
tight five intact as Jones looks to ensure another stable platform
at the scrum and line-out.
Hong Kong have made two changes in the forward
pack, with starts to experienced flankers Nick Hewson and Matt
Lamming, as both teams will be out to recycle possession quickly
at the breakdown. Dan Falvey shifts from starting on the flank
last week to his customary position of No.8.
There are two further changes in the backline,
both in the back three, with Ally Maclay, who came off the bench
last week, starting on the left wing, while Alex McQueen returns
from a non-rugby injury that kept him out of this year’s Hong Kong
Sevens campaign to start at full-back. Salom Yiu Kam-shing
his spot on the right wing. The interior backs remain unchanged
with scrumhalf Jamie Hood and fly-half Matt Rosslee returning at
the pivot, while centres pairing Lex Kaleca and Tyler Spitz also
keep their starting positions.
Jones has again gone with a five-to-three
forwards-to-backs split on the reserves bench with up and coming
hooker JW Markley coming in for injured squad co-captain Jamie
Tsang and prop Jack Parfitt brought into bolster the front row
after last week’s substitutions failed to make the desired impact.
Prop Angus Dixon and lock Kyle Sullivan, both of whom earned first
caps last week, have been named on the reserves bench as has
Thomas Lamboley who came on at No.8 last week.
Cado Lee Ka-to is the only remnant of the back
reserves from last week’s tie and will be joined on Saturday by
winger Charles Higson-Smith and fly-half Ben Rimene, inching
closer to full-time action after recovering from an injury
sustained in the Hong Kong Sevens.
Japan meanwhile could be looking to ring in more
changes with new coach Jamie Joseph continuing to cast his eye
over a wide group of players. Press reports out of Japan have the
side making eight changes.
Four of those come in the forwards, including
swapping out both flankers along with changes at tight head prop
and second row. Both starting half-backs from last week have also
been moved to the bench with further changes at left wing and
inside centre; experienced campaigners Shota Horie and Harumichi
Tatekawa have also been rested this week
Japan will announce its
final starting 23 16.00 today.
HKRU Squad for Japan
(Match 2, 2017 Asia Rugby Championship)
1. Ben HIGGINS (Valley), 2. Ben ROBERTS (HKCC,
captain), 3 Dylan ROGERS (HKCC), 4. James CUNNINGHAM (Kowloon), 5.
Adrian GRIFFITHS (HKCC), 6. Nick HEWSON (Valley), 7. Matt LAMMING
(HKCC), 8. Dan FALVEY (HKFC), 9. Jamie HOOD (HKFC), 10. Matt
ROSSLEE (Valley), 11. Ally MACLAY (Valley), 12. Lex KALECA (HK
Scottish), 13. Tyler SPITZ (USRC Tigers), 14. YIU Kam-shing (USRC
Tigers), 15. Alex McQUEEN (HKCC), 16. JW MARKLEY (Valley), 17.
Jack PARFITT (HKS), 18. Angus DIXON (Kowloon) 19. Kyle SULLIVAN
(HKS), 20. Thomas LAMBOLEY (Valley), 21. Charles HIGSON-SMITH
(HKFC), 22. Cado LEE Ka-to (USRC Tigers), 23. Ben RIMENE (Valley).
Pictures from 2017 Cathay Pacific / HSBC Hong Kong Sevens,
Pictures from 2016 Cathay Pacific / HSBC Hong
Pictures of Cathay Pacific / HSBC Hong Kong Sevens 2015,
Pictures of the Asia Rugby Sevens Olympic Games Qualifier in Hong
Pictures of Singha Thailand Sevens 2015,
Pictures from the 2013 British & Irish Lions Tour in Hong Kong,
Pictures of Hong Kong Sevens 2014,
Pictures of Hong Kong Sevens 2013,
of Chartis Cup 2012 and
Cathay Pacific / HSBC Hong Kong Sevens 2012.
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